Screenwriting : Is it ever okay to use the word nigga in a screenplay? by Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

Is it ever okay to use the word nigga in a screenplay?

What do you guys think?

Callum McKay

Hi Emily, I would say context is all important. For example if it is a piece whereby it would add to the authenticity of the period you're writing about, or enhance a character/scene then absolutely. It is possible to make a great screenplay and include it, Django Unchained springs instantly to mind. Although I would be mindful of how often you use it. For example if you establish that it is necessary to include it, don't then try and see how many uses you can get away with. Personally if I'm writing a script and the word was a good fit, I would use it. As loaded as it is, it is a word that is still used generally, so if it works go for it.

Tony S.

Tarantino made a cottage industry out of its use.

Tony S.

Agree with Erik. Here's a link to a "New York Times" Op Ed piece offering perspective:

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/opinion/sunday/coates-in-defense-of-a...

Evelyn von Warnitz

I just used in a scene to force the dialogue started from a very ugly, inhumanity character. But honestly I was thinking the same. Shall we realy use it?

B.V Jottsonne

Tarantino also used "dingus" in a screenplay

Ryan McCoy

I would recommend not using it ever, at all. Tarantino has gotten away with it, but he’s a far better writer than anyone on here.

Tony S.

I don't think anyone was saying because Tarantino uses it we should. It was more a reference to a filmmaker who uses it quite a lot. Some might say way too much. Therefore, it should remain the choice of the writer. Absolutes can be specious.

Rashika R

I wouldn't recommend using the word in any form. For me it doesn't matter how well you write, direct, etc. creatives should be able to covey their message and entertain without adding "words" for shock value. I don't think it enhances the project at all. Many think adding the word increases audience connection. When in fact it leaves a bitter tastes and a bit of confusion with those who question it's casual usage outside of film/TV.

TJ Colvin

Not a fan of Tarantino's usage because it seems gratuitous, but IMO context is the most important dictator of its usage. I think it was used very effectively in the Jackie Robinson biopic "42".

Tony S.

I agree wholeheartedly, RJ. It seems Mr. T goes out of his way, i.e. setting stories in 1800's South. This is "shock" value.

In a scene set on the street, with street denizens, or soldiers, or any number of raw or realistic situations, what would you write, "Oh, I am going to see my hale and hearty companion?"

Erik A. Jacobson

Makes a difference who is saying the word. It’s much more acceptable when used by a black rapper than by a Simon Legree southerner.

Tony S.

In real life same race usage is acceptable, cross race makes it knee-jerk pejorative.

If writing a screenplay set in Antebellum South, Simon Legree would say it constantly. As said, context matters.

Owen Mowatt

It's just a word. Like all other words it just needs to be used contextually.

As writers it is foolish to consider peoples sensibilities when writing dialogue.

Constance York

I have some characters who have used it, but it's in their character to use it. I don't have teenagers just using it in regular conversation. I have racists using it to show their character.

Pamela Bolinder

My answer is NO. Looking back, we've had some very despicable ancestors.

Anthony Moore

Personally I've never used it in any of mine.

Raymond Zachariasse

I think it is a strange word, so for me it's a no. But a screenplay is not real life, so it depends on the story I think.

Shibu Thomas

Yes, I think if the character requires it.....but thats just my opinion

Pamela Bolinder

There is power in dialogue to inspire change for the good or bad; a liberty writers and producers should not take lightly. Our youth are like sponges. They hear it, they say it.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Depends on context. ;)

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Ask Quentin Tarrintino.

Dan Guardino

If you have to ask that question then probably shouldn't use it.

Danny Manus

If youre writing a movie where this would be natural dialogue for the character, then it's fine. If youre writing a film with an African American cast and you ARE African American, then it's fine. if youre a white writer, it better be really genuine to the character and situation. Political Correctness doesnt supercede GENUINE writung.

Daniel Benshana

it all depend upon context and who is saying it., which determines whether it is a racist script or a brilliant realization of life. :)

Owen Mowatt

It's kind of alarming how people are so quick to jump to conclusions about someones character, intentions or political/sociological views over the use of a single word.

Freedom Of Expression, should be as important to a writer, as wings are to birds. And you should ALL fight for it and defend it!!!

What if my intention WAS to make you feel uncomfortable or alarmed?? Why can I not use the words to express that?

IMO, you'll never be a writer if you cant get over these childish sensibilities. How can you ever find your voice, if you shackle it with political correctness???

Tony S.

Well said, Owen.

I don't agree with much Ben Carson, HHS Secretary, has said, but this resonates, "Political correctness is ruining our country and we need to stand up for what we actually believe."

Jared Dunne

Saying that political correctness is ruining our country is a bit over dramatic, in my humble opinion. If lawmakers were to actually push to limit freedom of speech, that's one thing, but until that happens, political correctness seems to me to be a minor annoyance that has always existed, and will continue to exist, and thank goodness for that because without it, satire wouldn't be nearly as rich. It seems like people who hate the idea of safe spaces need their own safe space from political correctness. And to vote for a candidate based solely on their political incorrectness might end up giving us narcissistic carnival barkers for leaders. And surely we don't want that.

Owen Mowatt

.......so context?

Also, I don't understand how YOU are deciding if a black writer can use the word or not. And that this black director doesn't seem to understand the history behind the word?

Michael Nielsen

Yes it's OK. But is it OK for your script? That's the question.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

A writer should be generally unafraid to use any word that helps to make their work more authentic. For my screenplay Four Negro Girls In A Church, a civil rights story about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, I used the "N-word" 20 times. One of my main characters is antagonist Dynamite Bob Chambliss. Without the frank language I freely employed in my script, I believe that it would have lacked the impact that I believe it possesses. The director of the Harlem International Film Festival said it was a beautiful piece of writing, had a 10-page reading from the script and it was finalist at the festival in 2017. This script has also been a finalist at a number of other festivals.

Personally, I would never use the N-word to spread a message of hatred. But I'll sure as hell do it to demonstrate the toxicity and stupidity of racism.

http://harlemfilmfestival.org/2017-awards/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYuUmnLkQio

Tony S.

Jared Dunne In these days a tiny minority of people shape lives in the guise of being offended. Not at all dramatic when one reads the news. In my experience, some people get PO'ed when the sun rises.

Not that I'm a fan, but Kathy Griffin was eviscerated due to a satire of holding a bloody severed head. Bad taste? Maybe. It depends upon both political point of view and the delicateness of sensibilities. I do fully support her right to satirize, and thought investigation by the cops, and being placed on a flight watch-list, was frightening.

This will become terribly political really fast.

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